Dax Shepard Reveals He Relapsed with Painkillers After 16 Years of Sobriety
Dax Shepard is opening up about his battle with addiction.
In a new episode of his Armchair Expert podcast, the Parenthood actor, 45, spoke candidly about using painkillers after years of sobriety — and how his behavior began to escalate over time.
“So eight years into sobriety, I have not done a single shady thing. There was nothing gray,” he began. But in 2012, while he was also dealing with his late father’s cancer diagnosis, he got into a motorcycle accident on the way to work.
“I immediately called my sponsor and I said, ‘I’m in a ton of pain and I got to work all day, and we have friends that have Vicodin.’ And he said, ‘Okay, you can take a couple Vicodin to get through the day at work but you have to go to the doctor, and you have to get a prescription and you have to have Kristen [Bell] dole out the prescription.’”
Although Shepard said that there was initially “no problem” with this arrangement, during a subsequent trip to visit with his father, Shepard was given the responsibility of making sure his dad took his own prescribed painkillers. Shepard hadn't brought his own prescription because his wife did not come along on the visit.
“So I give him a bunch of Percocet and then I go, I have a prescription for this, and I was in a motorcycle accident, and I’m gonna take some too,” Shepard recounted, noting that he “probably took twice of what my other prescription was.”
After dropping his father back at the hospital, Shepard said that he “started panicking a bit,” wondering if that counted as a relapse.
The following day, Bell, who was pregnant at the time with their daughter Lincoln, ended up surprising her husband by traveling to be with him, and Shepard confessed to taking the pills.
“She’s like, ‘You clearly need to call someone in AA, but I would say you’re f— up from this accident, you got high with your dad, keep it moving. You don’t need to redefine it. you didn’t lose eight years, which was so comforting,” he said.
“So that was eight years ago,” he explained. “And now I have this experience where I did that, I felt bad, but there wasn’t really any fallout from it.”
“Then I get hurt again,” Shepard continued, noting that while he was never self-administering his prescribed medication, he began altering when he would take the the pills. “Maybe I don’t want to take them at night because I can’t sleep when I take them, so when I get my two at night I don’t actually eat them and I keep them for tomorrow morning so I can make it the dose I want to be.”
“I feel shady, but I don’t feel like this is a problem,” he added, noting that his behavior continued to escalate with each of his injuries.
Earlier this year, after breaking his hand in an ATV accident and also suffering multiple injuries during another motorcycle accident, the actor said he began getting "shadier and shadier," purchasing his own pills.
After he began lying to the people around him, Shepard said he realized he needed to quit. But he wasn’t able to follow through.
“Day one when I’m supposed to step down, I’m like, 'I wasn’t anticipating that this was already going to feel bad after just one less,' so I don’t step down the first day, and then I don’t step down the second day. And now I’m really panicking,” he said.
While driving with his podcast co-host one day, Shepard admitted that he had something to share. He told everything to her and his wife, handing off his remaining pills.
As the candid conversation continued, Shepard admitted that in addition to his own ego, one of the things that made telling the truth so difficult was the public narrative surrounding his sobriety. Shepard describing the experience of celebrating his 16th year of sobriety earlier this month while high as being “the worst hour of my life.”
However, 24 hours after being off opiates, the actor honestly opened up about his story in a meeting. “For the first time in a very long time, [I] felt optimistic," he said.
Shepard shared that while he’s still “very proud” of his 16 years of sobriety from alcohol and cocaine, he has “not been sober in the way I would like to be sober, where you don’t have secrets and you’re not afraid to tell people about the grey area you’re going through.”
Another reservation Shepard initially had about “coming clean publicly” was the impact it would have on his wife.
“Kristen doesn’t deserve for the next six months for every f— interview she does to be, 'Oh, Dax relapsed,'" he continued. "It doesn’t feel fair to anyone — it’s not. I’m sorry and embarrassed that I’ve put other people in this situation."
The podcast episode was recorded on Sept. 21, when Shepherd was seven days sober.
“I now feel again like my life’s going to get better. I’m going to feel less sick from it, I’m going to be less sweaty every night,” he said, before sharing a lighthearted update on how he’s doing. “So some of the fun stuff, the developments are, I have to switch sides of the bed. I sleep on a towel and then about 3 a.m. I have to wake up because the towel’s too wet and I move to the other side of the bed and put a different towel down.”
On Friday, Shepard briefly spoke about the personal episode on Instagram. “An episode I hoped I'd never have to record, but one I felt I owed to all the beautiful Armcheries who have been on this ride with me for the last couple years," he wrote. "This was Monday, say today is 11.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.